When starting out in a band, every kid dreams of making it big playing music with their friends. All it takes is one great rock show to change a bands life. Many of the oldies acts that we play have had that one show that has profoundly impacted them early in their careers. Here is a look at some of the biggest bands in the world performing their first ever show.
Aerosmith- Nipmuc High School
One of the first bands that comes to the minds of audiences when they hear the term arena rock”. However, before they sold-out Super Bowls, they were playing to crowds drinking from punch bowls. The band got its start playing its first show on November 6th, 1970, at Nipmuc High School. They got the gig because Joe Perry’s mother worked at a nearby school and knew someone who worked at Nipmuc and helped set up the show. School officials charged 50 cents for admission and the band was paid $50, which helped pay rent for their apartment. Fans who attended the show compared them favorably to The Rolling Stones, a comparison that would stick throughout their career.
Green Day- Pinole Valley High School
A recent upload of camera footage circa 1990 captured Green Day playing a show at their High School in 1990. The audience seemed into it, the band played solely from their first two EPs, Kerplunk and 39/Smooth. Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt attended the High School, but Armstrong didn’t graduate. I think he turned out ok otherwise.
KISS- If You Want The Best, It’s Yet To Come
On January 30, 1973, KISS played for 4-10 people at the Popcorn Club In New York City. The band earned $50 for playing two sets that evening. The group’s first manager quit, calling their music “the worst crap he ever heard”. Gene Simmons took over as manager, and the rest is KISStory. The bands makeup and costumes were in their early phases. The band appeared on stage for the show in homemade dime store versions of their iconic look. However, the music was there. “Deuce”, “Black Diamond” and “Watchin You” all made their respective live debuts. Peter Criss would later recall that the band had “played like the place was packed” despite the attendance being roughly 4 people.
Nirvana Play Smells Like Teen Spirit for The First Time
While not quite the bands first gig, the camcorder footage of the show is legendary. Especially given the lack of response for what would turn out to be one of rock’s biggest anthems. An audience member even shouts that the song, “has got potential”. Little did he know.
The Talking Heads Are Making Sense
The legendary group, known for their artistic and over the top shows were once just mere mortals in a band playing to an audience. No theatricality, no problem, The Talking Heads made sense to their audience. The group opened for The Ramones for their first ever show in June of 1975. The Ramones had frequented the venue a lot for their shows. Chris Franz, a regular at CBGB’s went up to manager Hilly Kristal, and Kristal told Franz that he had to audition. He then told Franz that his group could be put on with The Ramones. Johnny Ramone thought that The Talking Heads would “suck”, so he said yes. The band made sense to its audience that night, and many more nights to come. Two years later, the band was on tour with The Ramones in Europe.
Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green “Dreams” About the Bands Future
The national Jazz & Blues Festival of 1967 had a tremendous lineup, Pink Floyd, Cream, Jeff Beck, The Small Faces and John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. However, one band on the bill would not only transcend decades but would also outlast many of the groups on that lineup. The group’s name was Fleetwood Mac. They were a bit different than the one you know today. Fronted by Peter Green, the band played two half hour sets, following them was a band called Chicken Shack, who were fronted by a female singer named Christine Perfect. Fleetwood Mac had gotten its name because Green had wanted Bluesbreakers bassist John Mcvie, and a drummer named Mick Fleetwood to join him. The named sped up the process for the latter. Mcvie was hesitant as the Bluesbreakers offered steady income. The band tore through a blistering, bluesy opening set for Perfects band. The response to the show was what convinced Mcvie to join, thus completing Green’s ideal lineup. Christine Perfect, later Mcvie, would join three years later in 1970.